Peachtree Ridge’s Orlando Brown. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
Football Super Six - Peachtree Ridge's Orlando Brown
Peachtree Ridge's Orlando Brown has been selected as one of the Daily Post's football Super Six.
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THE BROWN FILE
Name: Orlando Brown
School: Peachtree Ridge
Position: Offensive tackle
Weight: 345 pounds
College choice: Tennessee
Place of birth: Baltimore
Role model: Dad
Favorite restaurant: STK Atlanta
Favorite store: Macy’s
Favorite teacher: Spanish teacher Muriel Rios
Favorite subject: English
Text messages I send in a month: “I’m not that good with texts. I talk on the phone a lot, though.”
Twitter handle: Zeus__78
Superstitions: Have to use the same game cleats all season
Funniest teammate: Nick Glass
Life’s dream: Play in the NFL
Info file: The son of former NFL offensive tackle Orlando “Zeus” Brown, the big tackle has improved greatly since he began playing football as an eighth-grader. He moved into the Peachtree Ridge district from Maryland after his sophomore season, when the offers started pouring in from major colleges. He committed to Tennessee in early May.
Coach Mark Fleetwood’s take: “He’s here every morning. There’s been no skipping practice, no skipping summer workouts. He’s a loving kid. His nature is unbelievable. I think the next two to three years, the transformation of him into a football player will continue. He’s 17 years old, just turned 17 in May. His future is ahead of him. He can get off the ball now. He can move. He still wants to do it better than he’s doing it now and that’s what I like. He’s hungry, which is great.”
Editor's Note: This is the third of the GDP football Super Six. We'll run them in six consecutive print edition's of the newspaper.
Orlando Brown entered high school the size of a big high school linebacker.
That was three years and more than 100 pounds ago, before the Peachtree Ridge senior began the transformation of his frame that turned him into one of the nation’s top recruits. The high school freshman who carried 450 pounds on a 6-foot-6 frame is now 6-8, 345, a college commitment to Tennessee.
Dropping the weight wasn’t easy, but the payback is worth it.
“It feels a lot better on my body,” said Brown, whose late father of the same name played 11 seasons in the NFL. “It’s always good as a person, as a human being, when you accomplish something. When you set a goal and accomplish it, it gives you a lot of confidence.”
When Brown moved into the Peachtree Ridge district the spring before his sophomore season, he was still over the 400-pound mark. The DeMatha (Md.) transfer began last season hovering around 400, and it was affecting his quickness and endurance in a big way.
Lions head coach Mark Fleetwood had a brutally honest meeting with Brown early in that junior season, playing a video of the big lineman in a loss to Parkview. He followed it up with a video of 2012 Peachtree Ridge grad Alex Jauregui, now a 6-7, 315-pound tackle at Middle Tennessee.
“I called him in and I just said, ‘It’s time,’” Fleetwood said. “I’ve got to be honest with a kid. Don’t get me wrong, he was trying. He was just too big. … We watched the video and he looked at me and said, ‘Coach, I can’t move.’ I said, ‘That’s what I’m saying.’ I don’t know how good of a football player you are right now because your body is manipulating you, you’re not manipulating your body. Until we get there, Orlando, it’s not going to work. I can tell you what the recruiters will eventually say.
“It was almost a mission from there. All of a sudden here he goes, here he goes, here he goes. He’s down to 340. … The thing to see with a kid like that is he has a dream. He had the dream. His dad is his motivation. With all of that, he’s just answered the call. He’s come in a thousand times and said coach I feel so much different. This is awesome. It’s been really neat to see the transformation of his body.”
The first stage of Brown’s plan was simple, just eat healthier.
The other part wasn’t too complicated, either, but it was just as tough. He made sure to exercise every day — “even on Christmas,” he said — whether it was team workouts or sessions on his own.
One of his favorite ways to burn the pounds away was to ride his bike. He rode it through Baltimore before he moved, so he got back on it for frequent neighborhood rides throughout the offseason.
With each ride, he felt better and put his previous physique deeper into the past.
“I wouldn’t recommend (playing at 450 pounds) for anybody,” said Brown, his face with a pained look as he thought back to his freshman season. “It’s difficult. You have to run. You have to make plays. They had me at nose because I was too big for offensive line and I couldn’t really move. It’s just a lot on your body and on your heart.”
The youngster already has seen what kind of toll health problems can take.
His father Orlando, a 6-8, 360-pounder who played primarily for the Browns and Ravens during his NFL career, died two years ago of complications from ketoacidosis that led to diabetic coma. His health faded quickly over the course of a few weeks and the oldest of his three sons got called to the school office on Sept. 23, 2011, a game day for him, with the tragic news.
“My dad was a man of pride,” Brown said. “I’m pretty sure he never thought to go to the doctor. He thought he would be alright no matter what. … It’s hard not having him around. It’s definitely hard. It was hard at first knowing I’m not going to be able to see him again. He can’t work with me.
“You always miss the little things you used to do together. It definitely shaped me into the person and player I am now. When he was alive he was enforcing technique and staying on me as a person and player. I still hear him. That’s what makes me strive to work harder and harder.”
The longtime NFL tackle didn’t want his son playing football at first, so Brown didn’t play football until the eighth grade. That meant the time he spent with his father on the football field was way too brief.
To make up for it, he watches his dad’s old games.
“I’ve got VCRs at home. People don’t use those anymore but I do to watch (my father’s) games,” Brown said. “I look at the little things, as far as stance. How much weight he has in his stance. How his feet are staggered. That kind of stuff. … In life, I felt like he was a very good role model. He took care of us, took care of his family. He had a life outside of football. He had a franchise of FatBurger. He took a lot of opportunities and ran with them. I respect him for that.”
As Brown continues to improve, he aims to match his father’s level of play. Based on his size alone, many think the potential is there to play in the NFL, too.
“(Brown’s) a late developer and really playing his first season at an acceptable playing weight level,” U.S. Army All-American Bowl national recruiting director and Gwinnett Football League president Erik Richards said. “He improved more than anyone since the fall on the camp series circuit. He took some reps against some of the best defensive ends in the country and did not back down. If I were to best describe Orlando, I don’t think he will start for a couple of years at the college level in the SEC, however, I do believe he will play on Sundays (in the NFL).”
Colleges forecast the same kind of potential with Brown, and some offered well before his huge weight loss. His list of offers was impressive, but he committed early to Tennessee.
Now he can focus on helping Peachtree Ridge get back to the playoffs, as well as working more on his body — his goal is to be 325 pounds when he arrives in Knoxville.
“(Brown) expects a lot more out of himself than we do,” Fleetwood said. “The leadership he shows with his teammates, they listen to him. He’s a positive leader. He’s not a guy who tries to lead and be negative. When Orlando speaks, they listen. I expect his leadership, his play, to improve this year. I’m expecting him to step his game up.
“Last year he didn’t even get recognized on the all-county team, so he has a lot of goals for himself. I want him to reach them and lead the team. I love his attitude more than anything. He cares about what he’s doing. It’s fun to see the college coaches watching him in the spring and then seeing him now. It was, ‘Gosh, Orlando you look awesome.’”
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